Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman makes first court appearanceApril 13th, 2012 - 3:16 pm ICT by BNO News
SANFORD, FLORIDA (BNO NEWS) — Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in February, made his first court appearance on Thursday after being charged with second-degree murder a day earlier.
Zimmerman, 28, wore a one-piece gray jumpsuit as he entered a small courtroom at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility (JEPCF) in Sanford just after 1:30 p.m. local time. He appeared before judge Mark E. Herr who was not in the courtroom but was speaking through a closed-circuit TV connection.
During the brief appearance which lasted a little more than four minutes, Zimmerman stood up straight, looked straight ahead and said “Yes, sir,” twice after being asked basic questions about the charge against him and his attorney. His hair was shaved down to stubble and he had a thin goatee, which appeared consistent with his booking photo from the day before.
Judge Herr said he found probable cause to move ahead with the case and that an arraignment will be held on May 29 at 1:30 p.m. local time before another judge. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, did not ask for bail during the hearing, reportedly to avoid arousing fervor.
Also on Thursday, a three-page court document provided new details about the prosecution’s case. Zimmerman has claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot 17-year-old Trayvon in Sanford on February 26. The neighborhood watch volunteer had told a 911 operator that Trayvon was acting suspiciously and, despite being told to stay in his vehicle, got out of his SUV after which a confrontation ensued. Zimmerman claims he was being attacked by Trayvon when he fired the shot.
The shooting prompted allegations that Zimmerman, who is half Hispanic, was motivated by racism, a claim which has been denied by Zimmerman’s relatives, friends and supporters who say he has been unfairly vilified by the media. The investigation has also been complicated by Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of being killed or suffering serious injuries.
In the affidavit of probable cause released on Thursday, the prosecution alleges that Zimmerman followed and confronted Trayvon after profiling the teenager. “[Trayvon] Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening,” the document read. “The witnesses advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn’t know why.”
The document adds: “Martin attempted to run home but was followed by Zimmerman who didn’t want the person he falsely assumed was going to commit a crime to get away before the police arrived. Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. [..] Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.”
The document alleges that Zimmerman disregarded instructions from a police dispatcher to stop following Trayvon. “Witnesses heard people arguing and what sounded like a struggle,” the document read. “During this time period witnesses heard numerous calls for help and some of these were recorded in 911 calls to police. Trayvon Martin’s mother has reviewed the 911 calls and identifies the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin’s voice.”
If convicted of second degree murder, a murder that is not premeditated or planned in advance, Zimmerman could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years to life. Zimmerman’s new attorney, Mark O’Mara, said during a news conference in Orlando on Wednesday that his client will plead not guilty.
“I think he’s troubled by the fact that the state decided to charge him,” O’Mara said on Wednesday when asked by reporters how Zimmerman reacted to the charge and arrest. “I think anyone who would be charged with second-degree murder would be scared. So yes, certainly he is frightened.”
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